Pittsburgh Pirates Likely to Use Two Platoons in 2023
By Marty Leap
When the 2023 season begins it appears likely that the Pittsburgh Pirates will deploy a pair of platoons in their lineup
There are still plenty of questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their lineup for the 2023 season. This biggest question continues to circle around star center fielder Bryan Reynolds and if he will be traded before the season begins.
Regardless of what happens with Reynolds, one thing that appears likely is that the Pittsburgh Pirates will be using a pair of platoons when the 2023 season begins. The hope with these platoons would be for them to play into the strengths of each player involved.
One of these two likely platoons would be at first base. When the Pittsburgh Pirates first traded for Ji-Man Choi it appeared he may be the team's first baseman. After also signing Carlos Santana, it now appears that Choi is on his way to platooning at designated hitter with Miguel Andújar.
In his MLB career, Choi has always hit right-handed pitching well. Choi owns a .247/.356/.454 slash line with a 109 OPS+ in 1446 career plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Against left-handed pitching, Choi has struggled to the tune of a .203/.288/.301 slash line and an OPS+ of 54 in 278 PAs.
As for Andújar, the right-handed hitter owns a lifetime .252/.289/.424 slash line with an OPS+ of 91 agaisnt left-handed pitching. While these numbers are nothing special, and he owns a better career numbers against right-handed pithing, they are still better than Choi's lifetime numbers against lefties.
If Choi hits well and Andújar struggles, which is certainly possible, then this platoon could subside as the season progresses. However, at least to begin the season, the Pirates appear to want to give Andújar plenty of at-bats and this will likely come as part of a platoon at DH.
The other likely platoon will be in right field where Jack Suwinski and Connor Joe appear set to split time.
At one point in 2022 Suwinski looked like he could compete for National League Rookie of the Year. Well, as the season went on he began to struggle more and more against left-handed pitching, he struck out too much, and was abysmal on the road.
Suwinski hit for a dreadful .122/.225/.286 slash line to go with a 45 OPS+ in 111 PAs agaisnt left-handed pitching in 2022. Against right-handed pitching, Suwinski hit for a .237/.330/.465 slash line with a 124 OPS+ in 261 PAs.
This would appear to make Suwinski a tremendous candidate for a platoon partner, which Joe will likely be. Although, there is an argument to give Suwinski more looks agaisnt LHP as 111 PAs is a very small sample size. All of that said, if he does not improve .112/.211/.184 slash line on the road from last season it will not matter what his right/left splits look like.
Joe, a former draft pick by the Pirates, was acquired from the Colorado Rockies earlier this month for minor league pitcher Nick Garcia. Joe's career OPS+ of 97 against right-handed pitching is far from poor, but where he has exceeded is agaisnt lefties. Joe owns a .258/.347/.412 slash line with a 107 OPS+ in 242 career PAs against left-handed pitching.
If Joe can improve slightly against right-handed pitching in 2023 then he could hit his way into more substantial playing time. Especially if Suwinski continues his 2022 struggles with the swing-and-miss and away from PNC Park.
Things can always change as the season progresses. Andújar will likely have a short leash and Joe could play his way into starter type at-bats, but when the 2023 season begins the Pirates will likely have a pair of platoon situations in their lineup.